Best Buy's quarterly sales drop, as inflation-weary consumers pull back on spending

Key Points
  • Best Buy's sales dropped by about 13% in the fiscal second quarter, as the retailer felt a pullback from inflation-weary shoppers.
  • The consumer electronics company had already cut its full-year forecast in July.
  • The retailer is seeing a noticeable shift in spending, as people go back to the office, juggle the costs of summer vacations or skip big-ticket items as they pay more for necessities.

In this article

Televisions are seen for sale at a Best Buy store in New York City.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters

Best Buy on Tuesday said sales dropped by about 13% in the fiscal second quarter, as the retailer felt a pullback from inflation-weary shoppers.

Shares closed the day at $74.89, up 1.61%, after the company reaffirmed its full-year guidance.

Best Buy had cut the sales and profit forecast in late July, saying it expects weaker demand for consumer electronics as people pay more for groceries and gas. The retailer projects same-store sales to drop by about 11% for the 12-month period ending in January.

CEO Corie Barry acknowledged that the economic backdrop has become choppier.

"We are clearly operating in an uneven sales environment," she said in a news release. The company is "focused on balancing our near-term response to difficult conditions and managing well what is in our control" as it works toward long-term growth, Barry added.

Here's how the retailer did for the three-month period ended July 30 compared with what Wall Street was anticipating, according to a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $1.54 adjusted vs. $1.27 expected
  • Revenue: $10.33 billion vs. $10.24 billion expected

Softer sales, more promotions

Best Buy's quarter reflects a sharp change in consumer spending habits. A year ago, the retailer saw sales rise nearly 20% as shoppers bought TVs, laptops and more to sustain Covid pandemic-fueled habits like working from home and streaming movies.

Now, however, some of those patterns have faded as people go back to the office or go on summer vacations. Some consumers are skipping over big-ticket and discretionary items as they pay more for necessities. 

Sales fell year-over-year across most categories, with the biggest drops in computing and home theater, Barry said on an earnings call with investors.

Best Buy's quarterly net income fell to $306 million, or $1.35 per share, from $734 million, or $2.90 per share, a year earlier. Excluding items, it earned $1.54 per share.

Sales online and at stores open at least 14 months, a key metric known as same-store sales, declined by 12.1% versus the year-ago period. That's slightly better than Best Buy's guidance, which anticipated an approximately 13% drop for the current three-month period.

Best Buy anticipates a sharper decline in same-store sales in the third quarter, Chief Financial Officer Matt Bilunas said in the company's release Tuesday. He did not give specific guidance, but said it will be more than the 12.1% fall reported for the second quarter.

Barry said the retailer has noticed some shoppers are trying to stretch the budget. Some, especially those from lower-income households, are trading down to lower-priced TVs or timing purchases for sales events, she said on the earnings call. 

Still, she said, customers are willing to pay more for some brand-name items, such as smartphones and gaming hardware.

Retailers across the industry are coping with an abundance of unwanted merchandise. Walmart and Target, for instance, cut their profit forecasts for the full year because they have had to mark down items to try to move them off shelves.

Barry said Best Buy has closely managed its merchandise to make sure it doesn't get stuck with excess goods. At the end of the second quarter, she said, inventory was down 6% compared with the year-ago period. It was up about 16% from the same time in 2019.

Even with its lower inventory levels, though, Barry said the company's profits are under pressure as competitors discount an abundance of goods with more promotions.

As sales soften, Best Buy has paused share buybacks. It is also in the middle of a restructuring initiative, which has included layoffs of store employees.

Best Buy said it has spent $34 million on the restructuring effort, with most spent on termination benefits, and it expects more in the coming months. It did not say if that will include more layoffs.

As of Monday's close, Best Buy shares are down about 27% so far this year. The stock closed Monday at $73.70, down less than 1%. The company's market value is about $16.6 billion.

Read Best Buy's earnings release here.